Strawberry Canyon Pool

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Rating: B

The deck and surrounding grassy area at the East Pool, one of three pools in the Strawberry Canyon Recreation Area run by the University of California, Berkeley, has long been used for topless sunbathing. The 25-yard-by-25-yard pool with six lap lanes finally reopened, but there's no word yet on whether the fun in the sun will continue. Before the closure, rule No. 8 of the posted regulations said that "Bathing suits must be worn at all times by all patrons using the facility (State of California Health Code); topless sunbathing permitted."

Although thongs and toplessness are banned at the facility's West Pool, over the years topless use of the East Pool has depended on the weather and the crowd. One visitor said she had been top-free there "every weekend" for two years before the pool was closed for repairs. Very few women were going topless on weekdays, but a fair number were on warm weekends when in the company of other top-free sunbathers. Note: neither all-nude sunbathing nor topless swimming are permitted, and top-free sunning was OK only on the deck of the 80-degree adult lap and "water jogging" East Pool, not at the other two.

Part of UC Berkeley.

How to find it: In Berkeley, take Dwight Way east toward the hills. Two blocks after Piedmont Avenue, turn left onto Prospect Street, which winds around Memorial Stadium. Turn right onto Centennial Drive and follow signs a short distance to the Strawberry Canyon Recreation Area parking lot. Walk past the wading pool and the family-oriented West Pool. The Strawberry Canyon fee for nonstudents is $5 a day, $60 to $75 for a 15-entry pass.

The beach:

A deck and a grassy area around the deck of a large pool used for adult lap swimming.

The crowd:

Mostly UC Berkeley students, professors, and staff and other Berkeley-area residents, leaning heavily toward the young. At the www.topfreedom.com site, Becky, of Oakland, reports that "top freedom" can range "from 10-50 percent on warm and sunny weekend afternoons."

Problems:

Not designated for full clothing-optional use; no sand; not very private; people must be suited to swim or walk, fee, closed until further notice. The university is raising funds to replaster and reopen the pool.

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